Our Summer 2018 Readers’ Puzzle is on Jordan Peterson. Peterson, a Canadian academic, has become a lightning rod for controversy. Some love his views’ some detest his views. Many argue about what his views actually are. His book, “12 Rules for Life” has sold well over a million copies, and people (mostly young men) pay $200 a month for a 45 minute Skype conversation with him. A recent New York Times profile can be found here. What do our readers think about Jordan Peterson? Send us your comments!

Full Citation for this Article: Editorial Board, SquareTwo Journal (2018) "Reader's Puzzle Summer 2018," SquareTwo, Vol. 11 No. 2 (Summer 2018), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleReadersPuzzleSummer2018.html, accessed <give access date>.

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COMMENTS: 6 Comments

I. Russ Parker

Overall I really like Jordan Peterson. Before finding his lectures, psychology was a mystery to me only because I studied very little of it. He has a way of making it very accessible and for the most part what he says rings true. Even though he is not LDS and as far as I can tell he knows little or nothing about our religion yet he says some things that work well with our standards. He is very big on the traditional family and supports our view that a father and a mother in the home is the best environment for raising children. His views on sexual morality, while not strictly LDS in flavor supports the idea that casual sex is a bad idea.

One thing he has spoken about is the difference in how men and women find meaning in life. He says it is very important for us to take on a load, bear a burden, be responsible for something. For women it is built into them, if and when to have a family. For them the clock is ticking and if they wait too long it will be too late.

Men have a very different problem. They have a lot more time to think about family and it is all too easy for the man to do the fun of starting a family then bailing out on the responsibility. It occurs to me that this is an important function of the priesthood to raise boys to men who have a purpose in life centered around priesthood covenants. By teaching boys/men to accept this responsibility it enables a full and joyful life.

This is just an example of his take on life. He also has a lot of great advise on raising children. He has said some things I find very important. One is that by the time a child is four he/she needs to be socialized and able to play with other children and to interact with adults respectfully. After the age of four it is too late. Failure to do this on the part of parents results in kids that have serious problems into adulthood. I guess I never understood how important it is. Luckily I had a wife who understood this inherently and they all turned out ok. Thank heaven for women's nurturing skills or we would all be a big mess.


II. V.H. Cassler

I have reviewed Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, for this issue of SquareTwo, which review can be found here. In this comments section, I will present but the conclusion of that review:

“Peterson’s book provides a wonderful array of helpful insights alongside a major and harmful error in reasoning. It is like a beautiful piece of wedding cake with a dead cockroach on top. If there is some way for you, the reader, to incisively remove the cockroach so that it leaves no trace behind in your mind and heart, you will find a book well worth your time and effort.”

I hope this piques your interest and you read the whole review!


III. Michelle Brignone

“Men need to grow up and take responsibility” – Jordan Peterson. How can anyone argue with that, least of all women, who do and should desire to have a competent and responsible partner? Jordan Peterson, is not the end of civilization, as some would suggest, however, he is not the savior of it either.

I think in such a divisive political climate, each side of the political spectrum has difficulty hearing truth if it is espoused by someone on the other end of the spectrum. There is some truth in a lot of what Peterson espouses. His 12 Rules For Life, are actually pretty good rules, for the most part. And, yes, men do need to grow up and take responsibility. And, yes, like it or not, the gender pay gap is complicated and there is a lot more to go into it than simply gender.

However, just as Satan is most effective when he is telling you a little falsehood mixed with a whole bunch of truth, so is Peterson. As a white man, he has the luxury to have the opinions he has about women because he has not had to fight the same way and endure the same discrimination and sexual harassment that women have. There are lots of things that go into the pay gap, he is correct, but he discounts the structural violence and discrimination that women face that prods them to make the decisions they do, not necessarily the decisions they want to make, resulting in a pay gap (more flexible jobs, taking time off to raise a family…) But sadly, in many places, it has been demonstrated there is an actual pay gap due to gender. Men get paid more because they are men, and supposedly “have a family to raise,” like women don’t? If that really were the logic of the pay scale, the man with 8 children would be paid more than the man with 2 children…. But it does not work that way. Managers will lie to women because they think they are too stupid or desperate to call them on it, and for the most part, they have been correct, we have been too desperate for a job to call them on it.

There is a bit of truth in much of what I have seen or heard from Peterson. The problem is he says it with such arrogance and finality – presenting his opinions as irrefutable facts, those listening get so annoyed, they end up willfully misunderstanding him a lot of the time, something I think he relishes. He is caught up in the academic ‘theory’ of how things are or should be, but is willfully ignorant of the actual experiences of women. C.S. Lewis said, “experience is a brutal teacher.” Like men throughout history, Peterson has discounted the opinions and experiences of others because he has not had them, so in his mind there is no evidence to support those experiences.

Having said that, I have to wonder if his views on masculinity and encouraging men to grow up and take responsibility isn’t a good thing. Just because some of his opinions are wrong or pushed too far, does not mean all of his opinions are wrong. He gave one example in his infamous channel four interview, (which frankly, I did not see why that interview was such a big deal), but I think is a good example. I am obviously paraphrasing. some men make the choice to have all consuming careers at the expense of their personal lives because they value power and money over family, so it is not unthinkable to expect women to be forced to make the same decision if they want the same high powered, high paying job. Where I see the problem is, is that very few women are willing to make that choice, and believe they should not have to make that choice. We want it all, a career and a family, but it seldom works that way for men or women, (whether that is right or wrong is a completely different argument). He has a way of taking a balanced, rational opinion filled with enough truth to be plausible, and pushing it just past the point of logic to a somewhat absurd conclusion. A conclusion that is not based in a shared win/win experience for everyone, but one that is rooted in a willful ignorance of reality born out of privilege.

Peterson is all for equality of opportunity, but not outcome, and that is what so many cannot accept. But, because we are all different, there will never be equality of outcome, we just don’t like accepting that. Whether Peterson is being accurate or just arrogantly opinionated, is almost irrelevant. He is just one more voice in the cacophony of voices we hear on a daily basis spouting every opinion under the sun, it is our job to find the little nuggets of truth and ignore the rest.

Thankfully, we have a sure way to decipher what is truth and what is not. We let the Holy Ghost be our guide and He will testify of truth, no matter where it comes from. All we have to do is have the ‘meekness’ as Elder Bednar put it, to accept it, no matter who it comes from. Truth is not easy to hear, especially from someone we may consider the opposition, but just because we may not like or respect the person saying it, or even how they are saying it, does not make what they are saying any less true. The same goes for lies and/or falsehoods. I would not worry about Peterson, he is having his 15 minutes of fame and will be gone soon enough. We should not be swayed by every fad, or supposed sage that comes along. The question is, do we have the meekness, faith, and humility to take the little nuggets of truth buried in what he says and learn from them, while appropriately discounting the rest.


IV. Rachel Zirkle

I had never heard of Jordan Peterson before this Reader’s Puzzle! The description of his teaching methods in The New York Times article mentioned above however makes me think of someone who is exploiting current gender equality struggles for money. I believe there are many factors like the recession, student debt, more adult children living with their parents, fewer men graduating from college than women, the #metoo movement, etc. that have challenged the idea, or perception, of modern “masculinity.” While I think Mr. Peterson’s advice of “growing up and taking responsibility” is sensible, I don’t think the promise of regained masculinity by pushing the other gender down is helpful, right, or acceptable. He is a prime example to me of being careful who we choose to follow—Mr. Peterson doesn’t sound like he is trying to heal the anxiety, fears, or failures of his followers, but rather trying to redirect those feelings into blame towards females for any chaos they may feel in their lives. It is my belief that to view success as a zero-sum game between men and women is detrimental to individuals, families, and society as a whole.


V. Stephen Cranney

He’s very continental philosophical in his approach, and as such what exactly he believes and the positions he takes are vague enough that they can’t ever be pinned down and critiqued in any robust way because he can always claim that that’s not what he meant. Ironically, this is exactly the same problem with gender studies, queer studies, and the other disciplines that he maligns.


VI. Neal Kramer

As is often the case with extremists, and I count Peterson as a radical extremist, some truth underlies Peterson's response to challenges young men face in a rapidly changing society. Young men are worried about marriage. They are concerned about family life. They worry about education and employment. Given the fact that women's roles in all these areas are continuing to change and are so visible, it may be tempting to believe that all challenges men face are caused by women. Hence, if we could just put Pandora back in her box, all men would thrive. Peterson's position is ultimately predicated on the idea that women are the cause of men's fears. His solution is what? Write books and hold seminars that feed men's fear.

This suggests to me that Peterson is a self-help charlatan. By finding a scapegoat for the difficulties inherent in normal life and selling this scapegoating in a fancy package, wrapped in seemingly authoritative degrees, meetings, books, etc., Peterson offers false hope. The scheme produces followers who are hoodwinked into believing they don't need to adapt to social and economic change. In the end, Peterson gets fame and fortune and the young men he cheats remain alienated and unhappy. I reiterate, he is a charlatan who tells simplistic lies to get rich. He is a predator. He is a threat to the young men he exploits.